LAND O'LAKES — The Pasco school district's hiring freeze is about to end.
Today the personnel office is expected to advertise as many as 50 middle and high school teaching jobs, and outside candidates will be considered.
Several elementary school positions could become available soon too. These will be some of just a handful of available teaching jobs in the entire Tampa area.
For months, area school districts, including Pasco, have held their open teaching spots for current employees who have been displaced by enrollment changes at their schools. In Pasco, there were plenty of them.
"Including the student achievement coaches and the high school literacy coach positions, we started with 470 people that were going to have to change jobs," said Terry Rhum, Pasco director of employee relations. "We're down to 23 people we're still looking for spots for."
Those teachers primarily are certified in special education and elementary education — not the areas that will open this week.
"We have many jobs that no one (currently employed and available) is qualified for at this point," superintendent Heather Fiorentino said.
Those positions would be for teachers in secondary science, math, physical education, foreign languages, art and music, as well as media specialists, technology specialists and guidance counselors.
Principals learned late Tuesday that they may advertise the jobs. The ads are likely to appear on the district Web site, www.pasco.k12.fl.us/ some time today.
District human relations officials expect interest to be high.
"We get a lot of applicants even without there being a specific vacancy," said human relations supervisor Anita Mullins.
In the past year, even a custodian's job drew hundreds of hopefuls. Teaching positions have seen perhaps greater interest.
Despite a lengthy hiring freeze, Pasco has received inquiries and applications over the past year from 7,000 educators seeking work.
"We don't necessarily anticipate being bombarded with a large number of brand new people," Mullins said. "People who are interested are already working on getting their applications done online."
United School Employees of Pasco president Lynne Webb welcomed the district's move to bring some new workers into the fold.
"Our teachers and school-related personnel are feeling burdened by the extra work," Webb said. "I really don't believe that we can continue to shrink the teaching or SRP (or school-related personnel) positions."
If the current group of employees can't fill the jobs, she said, then outsiders should be hired.
"Students need to meet certain criteria. They need to be able to take Spanish and other subjects. You need to have people who can teach those subjects," said Webb, adding that the district needs to stay on path with meeting voter-mandated class-size reduction rules next year.
The district has cut back its instructional staff by about 250 positions in the past year. Fiorentino said she would not reintroduce those jobs unless enrollment surges again.
The district also has reduced its administrative staff by nearly 70 positions.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.